14 July 2018

Killing the Hog (VII): Close Air Support Fly-off Farce


Ask any battle-hardened American soldier or marine what the best close air support airplane is -- especially if his unit is in close-quarters combat and in danger of being overrun -- and his most-likely response would be the Air Force's A-10 Warthog, affectionately known to grunts and pilots alike as the Hog.
Yet despite the nearly universal kudos from the grunts, the United States Air Force hates the A-10, with an enduring passion that dates from the A-10's birth in the 1960s. This is partly because the A-10 was midwifed in controversy by an amazing alliance of mid-level AF officers and Defense Department civilians, as well as a sense of urgency resulting from congressional investigations into complaints about the Air Force's support of grunts in Vietnam.  But the hatred runs much deeper: More fundamentally, it is grounded in the fact that the A-10 represents a highly visible -- and painful -- contradiction in the Air Force’s founding ideology of precision strategic bombing.  
This ideology shapes the Air Force's identity.  It was born during the 25 year War of the Air Force Secession -- a rebellion that began when the Army Air Corps formulated its theory of strategic bombing in the 1920s and 1930s.  Strategic bombing theory is based on a tautological analogy that claims any adversary is a web of "vital" nodes -- be it an industrial economy like that of Germany during WWII or a 21st Century terrorist organization like al Qaeda.  It posits that a precision destruction of any adversary's vital "nodes" will cause him to collapse and, at least in theory, victory can be achieved thru airpower alone -- hence it is the justification for institutional independence.  
Like all seductive analogies, Strategic Bombing Theory captures the imagination and encourages speculative, even wild, conclusions.  The result in this case has been the emergence of an increasingly powerful seductive mentality; it not only led to the flawed prediction that destructive attacks on the Schweinfurt's "vital" ball-bearing works would inflict a decisive wound in 1943, it also seduced President Obama into believing that precision strikes on "vital" Taliban leadership "targets" would be decisive.  That the cold evidence of history has repeatedly suggested otherwise has not diminished the analogy's seductive power.
Over time, airpower strategy has been reduced to a mechanistic formula of identifying an adversary's vital nodes, prioritizing their destruction, and executing precision attacks to destroy them.  By definition, if one destroys a vital node, one inflicts a mortal wound.  Hence the implicit logical corollary: in the unlikely event that any ground fighting becomes necessary, the attack would be reduced to simply mopping up disconnected remnants of the broken adversary.  This was a particularly seductive ideology in the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s, because of the universal desire to avoid a repeat of the bloody pointlessness of trench warfare in WWI.  But the theory’s main attraction was that it provided a rationale for seceding from the Army and becoming an independent service, a bureaucratic victory finally achieved in 1947.  Perhaps more importantly, by focusing on a physical analogy, strategic bombing insensibly placed technology and hardware ahead of people -- i.e., the grunts on the ground. Thus, the AF ideology of precision strategic bombing also became a winning prescription for ever tighter alliances with the defense industry -- which proved to be a perennial winner in the see-saw battles for ever-increasing service budgets.  
Which brings us back to the Air Force's ideological hatred of the A-10: The A-10 represents a glaring rejection of the Air Force's core identity.  
Hog pilots work for and are closely integrated with the grunts on the ground.  Their top priority is to become part of a combined arms team fighting in a fluid situation, not part of some sterile conception of an attack on a hypothetical "vital" node.  To be effective, the mental Orientation of Hog pilots must be in harmony with the tactical and operational-level Orientations of the ground forces.  Hog pilots must share a harmonious outlook with the grunts, whether tactical or operational -- and they have no pretense of adding an independent war winning capability.  Hog pilots are simply soldiers expanding the concept of combined arms operations to  three-dimensional space.  
Even worse, from the Air Force's ideological point view, the Hog is technologically simple; it is also ugly, and worst of all, it is a low cost airplane.  But, as the grunts will tell you, it is amazingly effective, especially when they are in extremis and about to be overrun.
So, the deeply rooted AF ideology of precision strategic bombing has been the source of its blind ambition to kill the Hog since its inception in the 1960s.  Attached below is Dan Grazier's stunning exposition of the lengths to which the Air Force will go in this never-ending struggle.  
Grazier is a former Marine who has smelled the cordite.  In 2007 he commanded a tank platoon in Iraq, and in 2013 he served a staff officer with Regimental Combat Team 7 in Afghanistan. Today, Grazier is the Jack Shanahan Fellow at the Project on Government Oversight.  Below, Grazier explains in mind-numbing detail how a grotesquely-biased fly-off "test" has been concocted to fraudulently demonstrate how the high-cost, super-complex, problem-plagued F-35 will out perform the A-1 in the Close Air Support mission.  
As Grazier shows, the conditions that will be used to kill the Hog are so absurd as to be laughable, were the end not so obscene.  Read it and weep.
Chuck Spinney
****
For interested readers, a partial history of the A-10's birth and its recent murder attempts can be found at these references:


Close Air Support Fly-off Farce
 F-35 Versus A-10 Fly-off Tests Designed to Mislead
By: Dan Grazier, POGO.org, July 10, 2018
[Reposted with permission of the author]


(Photos: F-35, left, USAF / Senior Airman Christopher Callaway; A-10, right, USAF / Dennis Brambl; Illustration by POGO)

 
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is finally going up against the battle-proven A-10 close air support attack plane for the long-promised close air support fly-off. The unpublicized tests began on July 5, and will conclude on July 12, according to a copy of the testing schedule reviewed by the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight. But the tests, as designed, are unlikely to reveal anything of real value about the F-35’s ability to support ground troops in realistic combat situations—which the F-35, as the presumptive replacement for the A-10, must be able to demonstrate.
A close air support test should involve large numbers of ground troops in a highly fluid combat simulation in varied terrain, across many days. It should test the pilot’s ability to spot targets from the air in a chaotic and ever-changing situation. The test should also include a means of testing the program’s ability to fly several sorties a day, because combat doesn’t pause to wait for airplanes to become available.
But the Air Force scheduled just four days’ worth of tests at desert ranges in California and Arizona. And, according to sources closely associated with the fly-off, not a single event includes ground troops, or any kind of fluid combat situation, which means these tests are hardly representative of the missions a close air support aircraft has to perform.
These tests put Air Force leadership in a difficult position.
They want their largest and highest-priority weapons buy, the troubled $400 billion F-35 multi-mission fighter, to quickly replace the A-10 close air support attack plane they’ve been trying to get rid of for over two decades. The now-former Pentagon weapons testing director, Dr. J. Michael Gilmore, said in 2016 that a close air support fly-off would be the only way to determine how well the F-35 could perform the close air support role compared to the A-10—or whether the F-35 could perform that role at all. The testing office and the various service testing agencies had already meticulously planned comparative tests to pit the F-35 against the A-10, F-16, and the F-18, because the F-35 program is contractually required to show better mission effectiveness than each of the legacy aircraft it is to replace.
In other words, the test was designed by someone with a vested financial interest in the F-35 program, rather than by people whose primary interest is its performance in combat.
Many Air Force leaders strenuously objected to the fly-off, claiming that the F-35 would perform the mission differently so it wouldn’t be fair to compare its performance to the A-10. These tests are only happening now—albeit in an inadequate form—because Congress mandated them nearly three years ago. The Senate established strict criteria and specific scenarios for the tests. These include demonstrating the F-35’s ability to visually identify friendly forces and the enemy target in both day and night scenarios, to loiter over the target for an extended time, and to destroy targets without a joint terminal attack controller directing the strike.
The Congressionally approved plan includes a schedule for tests and funding for elaborate tactical test ranges with combat-realistic, hard-to-find targets defended by carefully simulated missile and gun defenses, and appropriate ground-control teams for the close-support portion of the test scenarios. Testing to date has revealed the F-35 is incapable of performing most of the functions required for an acceptable close-support aircraft, and it seems unlikely the criteria outlined by Congress and testing officials would have produced the results Air Force leaders wanted.
The Air Force Solution: Designed to Mislead
Air Force leaders came up with a simple solution to this dilemma. They are staging an unpublicized, quickie test on existing training ranges, creating unrealistic scenarios that presuppose an ignorant and inert enemy force, writing ground rules for the tests that make the F-35 look good—and they got the new testing director, the retired Air Force general Robert Behler, to approve all of it.
(Photo: USAF / Master Sgt. William Greer)
 According to sources closely involved with the A-10 versus F-35 fly-off, who wished to remain anonymous out of concerns about retaliation, this testing program was designed without ever consulting the Air Force’s resident experts on close air support, A-10 pilots and joint terminal attack ground controllers. The Air Force’s 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base maintains an A-10 test division. But no one from the operational test unit contributed to the design of these tests. Even more egregiously, no Army or Marine representatives participated. Since the services fighting on the ground have a primary interest in effective close air support, excluding them from this process borders on negligence. This testing event should have been designed by the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team, which is charged with designing all tests for the F-35. Rather than going through the proper channels, design of these tests was outsourced to a consultant from Tactical Air Support Inc., a company with a contract to provide adversary aircraft to serve as air-combat training opponents for the U.S. Air Force, especially for the F-35 squadrons, which it also does for foreign air forces. In other words, the test was designed by someone with a vested financial interest in the F-35 program, rather than by people whose primary interest is its performance in combat.
The testing schedule shows four days of actual testing: one at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s open-desert bombing training range, in southern Arizona, and three at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake’s electronic combat range, an open-desert facility in California primarily used for electronic countermeasure research.
Day One at Yuma
The first day's test—July 5, at Yuma—scheduled one F-35 two-ship flight and two A-10 pairs. Each flight was to spend one hour making attack passes at highly visible, bombed-out vehicle hulks and shipping containers simulating buildings (plus one highly visible, remote-controlled moving-vehicle target), all in flat, open terrain near a large simulated airfield target. Each A-10 carried two laser-guided 500-pound bombs, two captive-carry Maverick guided missiles, a pod of marking rockets, and only 400 30 mm cannon rounds. The F-35s carried a single 500-pound laser-guided bomb and 181 25 mm rounds, the most each plane could carry. For the last 20 minutes of each one-hour target-range session, altitude was restricted to 10,000 feet, an alleged evaluation of each plane’s ability to operate beneath low cloud cover.
The first day’s attack scenarios called for “permissive” anti-aircraft defenses consisting of simulated shoulder-fired missiles and light anti-aircraft guns. A permissive environment is one in which there are few or no threats capable of shooting down an aircraft. Despite the “permissive” description, these are the anti-aircraft weapons that close air support planes will typically encounter while supporting our troops in battle against near-peer maneuvering enemy forces. However, the simulated defenses at Yuma had no precision instrumentation to track aircraft flight paths, gun aiming, or missile launch and homing. As a result, no quantitative data regarding the actual performance of the A-10 and F-35 will have been gathered. Rather than having charts of performance data, the evaluators will simply be able to report any results they want, without any way to verify the reports.
A close look at the first day’s test scenarios reveals numerous ways in which they were designed to favor the F-35 over the A-10, including the following:
  1. Both aircraft are given an equal one hour to attack targets, when in fact the A-10 has more than twice the F-35’s endurance over the battlefield, a key capability when friendly troops urgently need support in battles that last many hours, or even days.
  2. Both aircraft are assigned an equal number of attack sorties—even though the A-10 has demonstrated in combat an ability to generate sorties at a rate three times greater than the maintenance-intensive F-35 has been able to demonstrate under far less demanding peacetime conditions.
  3. Testing both planes’ critical ability to support troops under low cloud cover by imposing a 10,000-foot ceiling is irresponsibly unrealistic and clearly intended to mask the unmaneuverable and thin-skinned F-35’s inability to operate under the far lower 1,000-foot ceilings so common in Europe, Southeast Asia, Korea, Africa, and South America. The armored A-10 was specifically designed to be able to maneuver and survive the kind of ground fire expected during attacks under 1,000-foot ceilings. A-10s have demonstrated this on numerous occasions in Afghanistan, even in dangerous mountainous terrain.
  4. The weapons load assigned to the F-35—a single 500-pound guided bomb instead of the (still inadequate) two it can carry—unrealistically lightens the F-35 in an attempt to give it a maneuverability advantage during these tests. At the same time, the 30 mm cannon, which is the A-10’s most effective weapon and the one most demanded by troops in close contact with the enemy, has been arbitrarily limited to 400 rounds instead of the 1,174 it actually carries in combat. Equally artificially, the testers loaded the A-10 with two unguided 500-pound bombs, weapons it never carries in combat because they are too inaccurate and too dangerous to friendly troops. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, the A-10 always carries a full complement of guided bombs instead of unguided ones.
  5. The absence of specialized testing equipment to determine the accuracy of anti-aircraft gun-aiming against the evasive maneuvering flight path of the attacking plane makes it impossible to gain useful insights about relative hits on the F-35 versus the A-10—and invites the use of highly biased, speculative figures to favor a predetermined outcome. Similarly, for the shoulder-fired small surface-to-air missiles, there was not instrumentation of the precise missile launch or guidance control, no precise tracking of the attacking aircraft’s trajectory, and no validated shoulder-fired missile simulation to determine the relative success of the A-10 and F-35 in defeating or surviving shoulder-fired missiles.
  6. Using only uncamouflaged targets—usually painted dark military green and placed in flat, open, light-colored desert terrain and thus easily seen from 15,000 feet above—completely contradicts the stark realities of actual combat, in which the enemy always has a life-and-death motivation to do whatever it takes to remain unseen as long as possible. Anyone with access to Google Earth can quickly find dozens of these targets in satellite imagery.
China Lake Test Range. (Photo: Google Maps)
By testing only against highly visible targets, the test completely masks the much more restricted view out of the F-35 cockpit as compared to the A-10—along with masking the surprisingly poor video and infrared image resolution of the F-35 helmet’s display compared to the high definition of the A-10’s instrument panel display when it’s coupled to the plane’s sniper and lightening pods. On a broader level, testing only against easy-to-see, static, non-reactive targets artificially confirms the Air Force’s delusional notion that future close air support can be successfully conducted by planes flying at 15,000 feet and 450 knots relying on supposedly accurate, digitally transmitted target coordinates.
Interestingly, the Congressionally approved full operational fly-off test plan, as designed in detail by the previous testing director and the service testing agencies, avoids every one of these F-35–slanted, highly unrealistic, test-scenario biases.
Days Two, Three, and Four at China Lake
The day two schedule—July 9 at China Lake—calls for four F-35Bs to conduct a mission covering two Ospreys extracting a pilot downed in enemy territory for one hour, then four A-10s covering a similar extraction. A similar set of missions under night conditions is scheduled for the late evening of day three.
On the afternoon of day three, A-10 and F-35 pairs are to spend an hour and a quarter on the China Lake target range attacking static, visible targets similar to the Yuma targets—but these are even less realistic, as they are just simulated attacks, with no weapons released. The stated reason for moving to China Lake, despite the restrictions on actually firing weapons, is to test the A-10 and F-35 against the range’s “elevated” anti-aircraft defenses, which include simulated medium-range surface-to-air missiles, as well as shoulder-fired short-range missiles and light anti-aircraft guns.
On the afternoon of the final day, a pair of A-10s and a pair of F-35s will undergo tests to gauge their ability as airborne forward air controllers, directing the strikes of at least three sections of F-18Cs, which will simulate the bombing of more uncamouflaged targets, against the same medium- and short-range air defenses. In the late evening, a pair of F-35s and a pair of A-10s will conduct night close air support against the same targets and defenses.
These tests at China Lake show many of the same efforts to skew the events in the F-35’s favor as those at Yuma, but heavily amplified by the addition of the medium air defenses, for three main reasons:
1.     Without instrumented test aircraft, the aircraft radar tracking at China Lake does not yield aircraft trajectories precise enough to accurately simulate a medium-range missile’s success or failure against the evasive maneuvers and countermeasures of an attacking A-10 or F-35. As in the first day of tests, this invites speculation supporting the favored outcome.
2.     The medium-range missile defenses in this test do not incorporate the currently deployed Russian and Chinese stealth-defeating long-wavelength search radars now being used to cue their shorter-wavelength medium-missile radars. That means the F-35’s stealth will be much more effective against China Lake’s simulated medium missiles than against real-world missiles, thus severely skewing the test’s survival assessments in favor of the F-35 over the A-10.
3.     The relevance of medium-range missile defenses to close-support scenarios is at best questionable, as previously discussed. Their significant logistical requirements and lengthy setup times make them an impediment to maneuvering units heavily engaged in combat and trying to move quickly. Medium-range missiles are far more suitable for protecting rear-area interdiction targets or the static targets seen in trench warfare. Attacking either of these target systems with close-support planes would be a waste of lives and resources.
The Way Close Support Really Works
The true challenge in performing close air support and battlefield air interdiction missions starts with locating targets. In real combat, these targets will be crewed by real people with a powerful wish to survive the war. They will be unlikely to simply park their vehicles or themselves in the open desert calmly waiting to be hit by bombs. Instead, they will work hard to either camouflage their positions, dig in, or hide their vehicles beneath trees, barns, or other cover to make it much more difficult for aircraft to find, identify, and track them. Even when troops on the ground locate targets for the close air support planes, the rules of engagement almost always require pilots to get “eyes-on” before they can drop a weapon, to avoid civilian casualties and the disastrous effects on morale of friendly fire.
Nor is just locating, transmitting, and verifying a valid set of coordinates the end of the close-support problem. Targets react, move, hide, and fire back their own urgent threats, all in a matter of seconds. Pilots must be in close enough contact with the troops they’re supporting to cancel or switch targets in the middle of a firing pass.
Rather than telling us whether or not the F-35 can actually provide the kind of close support our ground forces need to survive and prevail, this grossly inadequate test has been designed to mislead.
This brings up the most significant failing in these tests: The designers essentially created a laboratory demonstration to show how aircraft can hit non-moving targets in a sterile environment. This hardly represents the conditions when soldiers and Marines are locked in close combat with an enemy just yards away. In the worst-case, most urgent close-support scenario—the one in which these aircraft need to be tested—a small group of American soldiers are about to be overrun by a numerically superior enemy force with reinforcements too far away to help. Their only hope of survival is for an aircraft to appear overhead, raining deadly fire on the enemy soldiers, forcing them to take cover or retreat. Not one event during these four days of tests comes close to addressing or simulating this.
Equally important, that lifesaving support needs to show up, rain or shine. The fighting on the ground doesn’t stop because of a little rain. On the contrary, our enemies, in wars past and present, often choose to attack in bad weather just to offset American airpower advantages. There is no reason to believe they will not do so in future wars. Because of our desert wars, we’ve forgotten that low-hanging clouds and poor visibility are the conditions at least one day out of three in most parts of the globe that aren’t deserts, where we might have to face far bigger fights than we face today. It is a travesty to pretend that a simulated cloud layer at 10,000 feet in clear desert air in any way tests what our troops need from bad-weather support.
Air Force leaders are fond of saying the F-35’s stealth characteristics will allow it to perform close air support in situations with heavy air defenses in a way the A-10 cannot. They like to paint a picture of a close-support aircraft having to drop a bomb on a target surrounded by enemy surface-to-air missiles but strangely devoid of friendly soldiers. Such a scenario is manifestly not close air support—simply because close means close to our troops. Unlike the way this quickie test is being staged, close air support, particularly in the kind of high-intensity combat against the peer enemy Air Force leaders are so fond of describing, always involves significant friendly ground forces engaged in a combined-arms campaign. These tests won’t help determine whether or not the F-35 can hit moving targets that are actively trying to evade attack while also being accurate enough to avoid hitting friendly ground forces.
The very nature of combined-arms warfare means all arms mutually support one another so that the strength of one weapon makes up for the weakness of another. For example, an Army brigade combat team urgently needing close support will be employing artillery, mortars, rockets, and electronic countermeasure to suppress enemy air defenses in order to protect the aircraft providing them support. Additionally, if ground forces are doing their job correctly, they’ll be disrupting the enemy’s air-defense forces so much that their missile crews will be concentrating on evading attack rather than firing at our airplanes. It is difficult to aim any weapon properly when being shot at by a tank’s main gun. These ground-brigade measures to suppress air defenses, in turn, greatly increase the effectiveness of the close support that the brigade combat team needs.
Conclusion
Rather than telling us whether or not the F-35 can actually provide the kind of close support our ground forces need to survive and prevail, this grossly inadequate test has been designed to mislead. Air Force leaders, in lockstep with senior civilian appointees, will undoubtedly march up to Capitol Hill with results in hand, saying that they conducted the tests with great care and the F-35 performed brilliantly, thus justifying bigger buys and getting rid of the A-10 sooner.
Our troops deserve better than a surreptitious test rigged in favor of a weapon that can’t do the job and against the one that can.
unknown.jpg
By: Dan Grazier, Jack Shanahan Military Fellow

Dan Grazier served as a Lieutenant and Captain in the Marine Corps.  He commanded a tank platoon in Iraq (2007) and was a staff officer with Regimental Combat Team 7 in Afghanistan (2013).  In civilian life now, he is now the Jack Shanahan Military Fellow at the Project On Government Oversight.

15 May 2018

The Latest Act in Israel’s Iran Nuclear Disinformation


Benjamin Netanyahu’s stage performance about Iran seeking a nuclear weapon not only was based on old material, but evidence shows it was fabricated too, says Gareth Porter in this Consortium News exclusive report.
By Gareth Porter  Special to Consortium News, May 3, 2018 
[Reposted with permission by the author]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim in his theatrical 20-minute presentation of an Israeli physical seizure of Iran’s “atomic archive” in Tehran would certainly have been the “great intelligence achievement” he boasted if it had actually happened. But the claim does not hold up under careful scrutiny, and his assertion that Israel now possesses a vast documentary record of a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program is certainly fraudulent.

Netanyahu’s tale of an Israeli intelligence raid right in Tehran that carted off 55,000 paper files and another 55,000 CDs from a “highly secret location” requires that we accept a proposition that is absurd on its face: that Iranian policymakers decided to store their most sensitive military secrets in a small tin-roofed hut with nothing to protect it from heat (thus almost certainly ensuring loss of data on CDs within a few years) and no sign of any security, based on the satellite image shown in the slide show. (As Steve Simon observed in The New York Times the door did not even appear to have a lock on it.)
The laughable explanation suggested by Israeli officials to The Daily Telegraph– that the Iranian government was afraid the files might be found by international inspectors if they remained at “major bases” — merely reveals the utter contempt that Netanyahu has for Western governments and news media. Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons secretly, their files on the subject would be kept at the Ministry of Defense, not at military bases. And of course the alleged but wholly implausible move to an implausible new location came just as Netanyahu needed a dramatic new story to galvanize Trump to resist the European allies’ strong insistence on preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Act (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran.
In fact, there is no massive treasure trove of secret files about an Iran “Manhattan Project.” The shelves of black binders and CDs that Netanyahu revealed with such a dramatic flourish date back to 2003 (after which a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) said Iran had abandoned any nuclear weapons program) and became nothing more than stage props like the cartoon bomb that Netanyahu used at the United Nations in 2012.
Disinformation Campaign
Netanyahu’s claim about how Israel acquired this “atomic archive” is only the latest manifestation of a long-term
Netanyahu’s cartoon bomb.
disinformation campaign that the Israeli government began to work on in 2002-03. The documents to which Netanyahu referred in the presentation were introduced to the news media and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) beginning in 2005 as coming originally from a secret Iranian nuclear weapons research program. For many years U.S. news media have accepted those documents as authentic. But despite the solid media united front behind that narrative, we now know with certainty that those earlier documents were fabrications and that they were created by Israel’s Mossad.
That evidence of fraud begins with the alleged origins of the entire collection of documents. Senior intelligence officials in the George W. Bush administration had told reporters that the documents came from “a stolen Iranian laptop computer”, as The New York Times reported in November 2005. The Times quoted unnamed intelligence officials as insisting that the documents had not come from an Iranian resistance group, which would cast serious doubt on their reliability.
But it turned that the assurances from those intelligence officials were part of an official dissimulation. The first reliable account of the documents’ path to the United States came only in 2013, when former senior German foreign office official Karsten Voigt, who retired from his long-time position as coordinator of German-North American cooperation, spoke with this writer on the record.
Voigt recalled how senior officials of the German foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachtendeinst or BND, had explained to him in November 2004 that they were familiar with the documents on the alleged Iran nuclear weapons program, because a sometime source—but not an actual intelligence agent—had provided them earlier that year. Furthermore, the BND officials explained that they had viewed the source as “doubtful,” he recalled, because the source had belonged to the Mujahideen-E Khalq, the armed Iranian opposition group that had fought Iran on behalf of Iraq during the eight year war.
BND officials were concerned that the Bush administration had begun citing those documents as evidence against Iran, because of their experience with “Curveball” – the Iraqi engineer in Germany who had told stories of Iraqi mobile bioweapons labs that had turned to be false. As a result of that meeting with BND officials, Voigt had given an interview to The Wall Street Journalin which he had contradicted the assurance of the unnamed U.S. intelligence officials to the Times and warned that the Bush administration should not base its policy on the documents it was beginning to cite as evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, because they had indeed come from “an Iranian dissident group.”
Using the MEK
The Bush administration’s desire to steer press coverage of the supposedly internal Iranian documents away from the MEK is understandable: the truth about the MEK role would immediately lead to Israel, because it was well known, that Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad had used the MEK to make public information that the Israelis did not want attributed to itself – including the precise location of Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility. As Israeli journalists Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar observed in their 2007 book on the Iran nuclear program, based on U.S., British and Israeli officials, “Information is ‘filtered’ to the IAEA via Iranian opposition groups, especially the National Resistance Council of Iran.”
Mossad used the MEK repeatedly in the 1990s and the early 2000’s to get the IAEA to inspect any site the Israelis suspected might possibly be nuclear-related, earning their Iranian clients a very poor reputation at the IAEA. No one familiar with the record of the MEK could have believed that it was capable of creating the detailed documents that were passed to the German government. That required an organization with the expertise in nuclear weapons and experience in fabricating documents – both of which Israel’s Mossad had in abundance.
El Baradei: Didn’t buy it.
Bush administration officials had highlighted a set of 18 schematic drawings of the Shahab-3 missile’s reentry vehicle or nosecone of the missile in each of which there was a round shape representing a nuclear weapon. Those drawings were described to foreign governments and the International Atomic Energy Agency as 18 different attempts to integrate a nuclear weapon into the Shahab-3.
Netanyahu gave the public its first glimpse of one of those drawings Monday when he pointed to it triumphantly as visually striking evidence of Iranian nuclear perfidy. But that schematic drawing had a fundamental flaw that proved that it and others in the set could not have been genuine: it showed the “dunce cap” shaped reentry vehicle design of the original Shahab-3 missile that had been tested from 1998 to 2000. That was the shape that intelligence analysts outside Iran had assumed in 2002 and 2003 Iran would continue to use in its ballistic missile.
New Nose Cone
It is now well established, however, that Iran had begun redesigning the Shahab-3 missile with a conical reentry vehicle or nosecone as early as 2000 and replaced it with a completely different design that had a “triconic” or “baby bottle” shape. It made it a missile with very different flight capabilities and was ultimately called the Ghadr-1. Michael Elleman, the world’s leading expert on Iranian ballistic missiles, documented the redesign of the missile in his path-breaking 2010 study of Iran’s missile program.
Iran kept its newly-designed missile with the baby bottle reentry vehicle secret from the outside world until its first test in mid-2004. Elleman concluded that Iran was deliberately misleading the rest of the world – and especially the Israelis, who represented the most immediate threat of attack on Iran – to believe that the old model was the missile of the future while already shifting its planning to the new design, which would bring all of Israel within reach for the first time.
The authors of the drawings that Netanyahu displayed on the screen were thus in the dark about the change in the Iranian design. The earliest date of a document on the redesign of the reentry vehicle in the collection obtained by U.S. intelligence was August 28, 2002 – about two years after the actual redesign had begun. That major error indicates unmistakably that the schematic drawings showing a nuclear weapon in a Shahab-3 reentry vehicle – what Netanyahu called “integrated warhead design” were fabrications.
Netanyahu’s slide show highlighted a series of alleged revelations that he said came from the newly acquired “atomic archive” concerning the so-called “Amad Plan” and the continuation of the activities of the Iranian who was said to have led that covert nuclear weapons project. But the single pages of Farsi language documents he flashed on the screen were also clearly from the same cache of documents that we now know came from the MEK-Israeli combination. Those documents were never authenticated, and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, who was skeptical of their authenticity, had insisted that without such authentication, he could not accuse Iran of having a nuclear weapons program.
More Fraud
Shahab 3: Secretly got a new nose cone.(Atta Kennare,Getty)
There are other indications of fraud in that collection of documents as well. A second element of the supposed covert arms program given the name “Amad Plan” was a “process flow chart” of a bench-scale system for converting uranium ore for enrichment. It had the code name “Project 5.13”, according to a briefing by the IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen, and was part of a larger so-called “Project 5”, according to an official IAEA report. Another sub-project under that rubric was “Project 5.15”, which involved ore processing at the Gchine Mine.” Both sub-projects were said to be carried out by a consulting firm named Kimia Maadan.
But documents that Iran later provided to the IAEA proved that, in fact, “Project 5.15” did exist, but was a civilian project of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, not part of a covert nuclear weapons program, and that the decision had been made in August 1999 – two years before the beginning of the alleged “Amad Plan” was said to have begun.
The role of Kimia Maadan in both sub-projects explains why an ore processing project would be included in the supposed secret nuclear weapons program. One of the very few documents included in the cache that could actually be verified as authentic was a letter from Kimia Maadan on another subject, which suggests that the authors of the documents were building the collection around a few documents that could be authenticated.
Netanyahu also lingered over Iran’s denial that it had done any work on “MPI” or (“Multi-Point Initiation”) technology “in hemispheric geometry”. He asserted that “the files” showed Iran had done “extensive work” or “MPI” experiments. He did not elaborate on the point. But Israel did not discover the alleged evidence of such experiments in a tin-roofed shack in Tehran. The issue of whether Iran had done such experiments was a central issue in the IAEA’s inquiry after 2008. The agency described it in a September 2008 report, which purported to be about Iran’s “experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device.”
No Official Seals
The IAEA refused to reveal which member country had provided the document to the IAEA. But former Director-General ElBaradei revealed in his memoirs that Israel had passed a series of documents to the Agency in order to establish the case that Iran had continued its nuclear weapons experiments until “at least 2007.” ElBaradei was referring to convenient timing of the report’s appearance within a few months of the U.S. NIE of November 2007 concluding that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons-related research in 2003. And the “MPI” document fulfilled precisely that political function.
Netanyahu pointed to a series of documents on the screen as well a number of drawings, photographs and technical figures, and even a grainy old black and white film, as evidence of Iran’s nuclear weapons work. But absolutely nothing about them provides an evidentiary link to the Iranian government. As Tariq Rauf, who was head of the IAEA’s Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office from 2002 to 2012, noted in an e-mail, none of the pages of text on the screen show official seals or marks that would identify them as actual Iranian government documents. The purported Iranian documents given to the IAEA in 2005 similarly lacked such official markings, as an IAEA official conceded to me in 2008.
Netanyahu’s slide show revealed more than just his over-the-top style of persuasion on the subject of Iran. It provided further evidence that the claims that had successfully swayed the U.S. and Israeli allies to join in punishing Iran for having had a nuclear weapons program were based on fabricated documents that originated in the state that had the strongest motive to make that case – Israel.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian on U.S. national security policy and the recipient of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014.

12 April 2018

How Can We Know If a Chemical Weapons Attack Took Place in Syria?


by PATRICK COCKBURN, Counterpunch, 12 April 2018
[Re-posted with permission of Editor and Author]
Every atrocity in the Syrian civil war provokes a furious row about whether it happened and, if so, who was responsible for carrying it out. The merciless brutality of all sides combines with partisan reporting and lack of access for independent investigators to make it possible for doubts to be generated about even the most blatant war crime. One good rule is that participants in the war are often accurate about the crimes of their opponents while they invariably lie or are silent about their own.
This rule appears to hold good in the case of the poison gas attack on the city of Douma on 7 April, which killed at least 34 people and possibly twice as many. The Russian military claim that the attack was faked by pro-opposition activists and that samples taken from the site of where the civilians died were not toxic. The Syrian government issues blanket denials when accused of using poison gas.
But there is mounting evidence from neutral observers to confirm that chlorine was used last Saturday. The World Health Organisation says that local health authorities in Douma, with whom it is cooperating, confirm that on the day of the alleged bombing they treated 500 patients with the symptoms of exposure to toxic chemicals. It reports that “there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to the central nervous systems of those exposed”.
Other evidence for the gassing of civilians is cumulatively convincing: large gas cylinders, like those used in past chlorine gas attacks, were filmed on the roof of the building where most bodies were found. Local people report that Syrian government helicopters were seen in the area at the time of the attack. Such helicopters have been used in chlorine gas bombings in the past.
The Russian and Syrian government accounts of what happened, varying between saying there were no attacks or that evidence for them has been fabricated, are contradictory. A Russian spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the use of “smart missiles” on Syrian government forces could be an attempt to destroy the evidence.
The allegations of fabrication are generalised and non-specific and amount to a conspiracy theory for which no evidence is ever produced, other than to throw doubt on the partiality of those who say that chlorine was used. It is true that many of the sources cited by the Western media as if they were bipartisan eye-witness accounts are committed supporters of the opposition. But the Russian and Syrian governments have never produced any counter-evidence to give credence to the elaborate plot that would be necessary to fake the use of poison gas or to really use it, but put the blame on Syrian government air power.
The most convincing reason advanced by those who argue that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces did not carry out the attack is that it was entirely against their interests to do so. They have already won militarily in Douma and the second of two convoys carrying thousands of Army of Islam fighters and their families left for Turkish-controlled northern Syria today. And this latest success brings Assad with sight – though it is still a distant one – of a complete victory over his enemies.
For all the furore about the proposed missile strike on Syrian forces– likely to happen in the very near future – it is difficult to see what it will achieve other than as a general sign of international disapproval of the use of chemical weapons. Hawks in the US and Europe may want to use the occasion to reopen the door to armed intervention in the Syrian civil war with the aim of weakening or displacing Assad, but the time for this is long past, if it was ever there.
There is a widely held myth that US air strikes against government forces in 2013, which President Barack Obama is blamed for not having carried out, would have brought the war to a different and happier conclusion. But such air strikes would only have been effective if they had been conducted on a mass scale and on a daily basis in support of ground troops. These would either have been Sunni Arab armed opposition forces, which were already dominated by al-Qaeda-type movements, or the US army in a rerun of the Iraq War of 2003.

20 January 2018

Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show


Earlier versions of this essay appear in Counterpunch and Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity

 

Photo by Jim Mattis | CC by 2.0
Much has been written about our Twitterer-in-Chief and the tortured response to his presidency, particularly within the GOP.  As a recent example, Frank Bruni of the New York Times lamented the fate of Senator Lindsey Graham, who has now become one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders on mainstream shows such as “Meet the Press”. Bruni, however, reminds us that during the presidential campaign of 2016, Graham described then candidate Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass”, even as he now praises POTUS, thereby personifying “his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.”
Appearances to the contrary, Bruni actually has got it “bass ackwards”.  In reality, Trump is well into the process of surrendering his presidency to the GOP establishment and what one of us has termed the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex” (MICC ). It’s worth recalling that Senator Graham, along with his erstwhile colleague, John McCain, have consistently acted as leading supplicants for the Department of Defense, as well as staunch Cold Warriors who long opposed Trump’s attempts to shift US foreign policy in a more Russo-friendly direction.  They (like Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign) also reacted with horror to the views expressed by Trump during the campaign when he questioned NATO’s eastward thrust, the power transformation in the western Pacific, Syria, Iraq, the Middle East altogether.
But for all of the talk of “Russia-gate” and collusion with Putin, Trump has in fact quietly been shifting US foreign policy in a direction which if anything is becoming decidedly more hawkish and militarized than has occurred under any American presidency since the early days of the Reagan Administration. Just last December, Trump Administration officials confirmed that the State Department approved a commercial license authorizing the export of Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and associated parts and accessories to Ukraine. These weapons were requested as early as 2014, but were long rejected by President Obama, who saw the sale as a needless risk elevation in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. (Ironically, Trump also initially resisted the inclusion in the GOP Platform of selling said weapons to the Ukraine, and this was subsequently cited by many as further “proof” of Boss Tweet’s collusion with Russia.)
More recently, the President directed the Department of Defense to conduct a new “Nuclear Posture Review January 2018” (NPR).  The mission statement of the draft review, recently leaked to the Huffington Post, is:
[T]o ensure a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent that safeguards the homeland, assures allies, and deters adversaries. This review comes at a critical moment in our nation’s history, for America confronts an international security situation that is more complex and demanding than any since the end of the Cold War. In this environment, it is not possible to delay modernization of our nuclear forces and remain faithful sentinel s of our nation’ s security and freedom for the next generation as well as our own.
The NPR draft, then, opens the door wider for using “precision” limited nuclear options in response to conventional and cyber threats.  In effect, this NPR, if signed into policy by Trump, locks in Obama’s massive nuclear modernization program, as well as expanding it significantly by putting small “precision-guided” nuclear warheads on SLBMs, among other things.
If Boss Tweet signs the NPR, he also will be approving and entrenching the political engineering of new SLBMs and ICBMs, the new Bomber, a new missile launching nuclear submarine, a new nuclear cruise missile, a whole panoply of new nuke-hardened space-based C3ISR systems, a new family of nuclear warheads, the addition of precision guidance to the B-61 “dial-a-yield” bomb, a massive modernization of the nuclear lab infrastructure, and much more.
So much for being Putin’s poodle! The implementation will certainly formalize the restart of the Cold War by adopting the precision nuclear strike mentality envisioned in the January 1988 report entitled Discriminant Deterrence, just as the Cold War was ending.  This report was  published by the Commission on Integrated Long Term Strategy, co-chaired by the noted Cold Warriors Fred IklĂ© and Albert Wohlstetter, and whose members have included, inter alia, the likes of Henry Kissinger (now apparently advising Jared Kushner after advising HRC during the 2016 campaign), Samuel Huntington, and the recently deceased Zbigniew Brezinski.
Once the political engineers are done spreading the nuke contract dollars to most, if not all, congressional districts, the whole program, currently estimated to be in excess of $1 Trillion, will be locked in for up to 50 years.  Any attempt to reverse this will be met by the usual tricks of the Pentagon: selective leaks to sympathetic journalists at the NYT & WaPo, along with threats to cut back at domestic bases, as well as the contracts themselves, which will be important sources of employment and political patronage in local Congressional districts.   If this was indeed Mr. Putin’s gambit in 2016, then he has seriously miscalculated.
About the only possible silver lining in the restart of the Cold War is that the MICC no longer needs to use the cover of the global war on terror to prop up its long term budgets. [see Domestic Roots Perpetual War]  The endless cycle of military budget one-upmanship which characterized most of the Cold War will reassert itself because both Moscow and Beijing are bound to respond, regardless of what Boss Tweet says his intentions are.
These are but a few examples of Trump’s policy reversals, along with the absurd notion that he would “drain the swamp”, introduce a “fantastic tax reform” that would largely benefit the middle class, give us a great healthcare system, and finally, develop a foreign policy that would allow the US to enjoy a closer and more collaborative relationship with Russia. Many of the very same people who once fretted about Trump and nuclear codes now applauding as he signs off on missiles and bombs and an escalation of the conflict in the Ukraine.
So to come back to Frank Bruni’s point: There is method to the apparent mad about-face by Graham and others in the GOP.  As for the so-called #TheResistance, most are still so obsessed with the Mueller investigation that they have failed to see that a soft coup has already taken place under their collective noses (indeed, with their recent approval of the FISA courts, it appears that the Democrats’ cries of alarm about the fate of our Republic are but crocodile tears). Why impeach Boss Tweet when he is so good to the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex (MICC) and the economic Oligarchs, while providing distracting entertainment to the masses and the press?  If it takes a new Cold War and a further subversion of our democracy to kneecap Donald Trump, well, one is all for it.
In short, Boss Tweet* has become the DC Swamp’s useful idiot and he will do as he is told with the help of Republicans in Congress, like Lindsey Graham (as well as many complicit Democrats – who have been sucked into the vortex of the renewed Cold War, in part by virtue of their opportunistic embrace of “Russiagate” – not to mention the corrupted intelligence community).  Trump can eat all of the Big Macs he wants, release his inner Klansman to his heart’s content, amuse himself by watching “Fox & Friends”, and enrich his family, so long as he plays ball with “his generals”, the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the rest of the One Percenters. So long as James Mattis gets to feed the big bucks to the MICC unhindered, or Charlie Koch gets a free ride by the Environmental Protection Agency, life will remain good at the White House for the First Family. There will be no impeachment or invocation of Article 25, because the president has been neutered.
No doubt, the press will continue to express abhorrence with every new obscenity or controversial tweet, lament the decline of our political parties, and the Mueller investigation will continue to act as a major distraction.  Meanwhile, the constitutional safeguards that have long been the bedroom of the republic will continue to be eviscerated.  Welcome to Versailles on the Potomac!

* "Boss Tweet" is a term of art ingeniously coined by Paul Street in this article: “An Idiot Surrounded by Clowns”: Why Trump (Still) Sits in the White House

21 December 2017

Intel Vets Tell Trump Iran Is Not Top Terror Sponsor


A group of U.S. intelligence veterans urges President Trump to stop his administration’s false claims about Iran being the leading state sponsor of terrorism when U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are clearly much guiltier.
[Reposted with permission of the Editor Consortium News]
—————
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Is Iran the “World’s Leading Sponsor of Terrorism?”
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY/BACKGROUND 
We are concerned by recent strident and stark public statements from key members of your Administration that paint Iran in very alarmist terms. The average American, without the benefit of history, could easily be persuaded that Iran poses an imminent threat and that there is no alternative for us but military conflict.
President Donald Trump addresses the nation about his Iran policy on Oct. 13, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)
We find this uncomfortably familiar territory. Ten years ago former President George W. Bush was contemplating a war with Iran when, in November of 2007, intelligence analysts issued a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) debunking the prevailing conventional wisdom; namely, that Iran was on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon.  The NIE concluded that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.
Recalling this moment in his memoir, Decision Points, President Bush noted that the NIE’s “eye-popping” intelligence findings stayed his hand.  He added this rhetorical question: “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”
We believe that you are facing a similar situation today. But instead of an inaccurate claim that Iran has nuclear weapons, the new canard to justify war with Iran is the claim that Iran remains the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” This is incorrect, as we explain below.
 * * *
One of the recurring big bipartisan lies being pushed on the public with the enthusiastic help of a largely pliant media is that Iran is the prime sponsor of terrorism in the world today.
In the recent presentation of your administration’s National Security Strategy for 2018, the point is made that:
“Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding. . . . Iran continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence in the region, causing grievous harm to civilian populations.”
Those sentiments are echoed by several other countries of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, for example, declared in October 2015 that: Iran “is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it is working on destabilizing the region.”
The Saudi foreign minister conveniently declined to mention that 15 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes and attacked America on 11 September 2001 were Saudis, not Iranians.  And, while Iran was an active promoter of terrorism two decades ago, it is no longer in the forefront of global terrorism. Ironically, that dubious distinction now goes to Iran’s accusers — first and foremost, Saudi Arabia.
The depiction of Iran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years. Despite frequent claims by U.S. officials that Iran is engaged in terrorism, we simply note that the incidents recorded annually in the U.S. Department of State’s Patterns of Global Terrorism rarely identifies a terrorist incident as an act by or on behalf of Iran.
Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah also has evolved radically. In the early years of the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah was often a proxy and sub-contractor for Iran. But during the last 20 years Hezbollah has become an entity and political force in its own right. It fought Israel to a standstill in 2006 in southern Lebanon, which was a watershed moment in establishing Hezbollah’s transformation into a conventional army. In the intervening years, Hezbollah, which is now part of the Lebanese government, also has turned away from the radical, religious driven violence that is the hallmark of the Sunni extremists, like ISIS.
Iran’s Asymmetrical Response
After Iran fell under the rule of the Ayatollah in 1979 terrorism, its role in high profile terrorist attacks, such as the taking of U.S. hostages and the bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the Marine barracks in Lebanon, fed understandable U.S. animosity towards Iran.  But Iran’s actions were not driven primarily by blind hatred or radical religious views.  For Iran terrorism was a way to punch back against more powerful foes, principally the United States, which was providing military and intelligence support to Iran’s neighbor and enemy, Iraq.
Portrait of the late Ruhollah Khomeini by Mohammad Sayyid
The Iranians were also pragmatic and had direct dealings with Israel. During the early days of the Iranian revolution the Mullahs, despite publicly denouncing Israel, happily accepted secret military support from the Israelis. Israel was equally pragmatic. The Israeli leaders ignored the Mullahs and gave the support as a means of helping counter the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. A classic case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The public image of Iran as a hotbed of fanatical terrorists has been usurped since the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in east Africa by Al Qaeda and other radical Sunni entities. The U.S. Government’s own list of terrorist attacks since 2001 shows a dramatic drop in the violence carried out by Iran and an accompanying surge in horrific acts by radical Sunni Muslims who are not aligned with Iran.  The latest edition of the Global Terrorism Index, a project of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, shows that four groups accounted for 74 percent of all fatalities from terrorism in 2015 — Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS.
Thirteen of the 14 Muslim Groups identified by the U.S. intelligence community as actively hostile to the US are Sunni, not Shia, and are not supported by Iran:
– ISIS (Sunni)
– The Al-Nusra Front (Sunni)
– Al-Qa’ida Central (Sunni)
– Al-Qa’ida in Magheb (Sunni)
– Al-Qa’ida in Arabian Peninsula (Sunni)
– Boku Haram (Sunni)
– Al-Shabbab (Sunni)
– Khorassan Group (Sunni)
– Society of the Muslim Brothers (Sunni)
– Sayyaf Group in the Philippines (Sunni)
– Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Sunni)
– Lashgar i Taiba (Sunni)
– Jemaa Islamiya (Sunni)
– Houthis (Shia)
The last major terrorist attack causing casualties that is linked to Iran was the July 2012 bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. That departure from Iran’s more recent policy on terrorism was retaliation for what Iran perceived to be Israel’s role in assassinating five Iranian scientists involved with Iran’s Nuclear program, between January 2010 and January 2012 (the dates and names of those attacked are appended).
One can easily imagine the outrage and lust for revenge that would sweep the U.S., if Americans believed a foreign country sent operatives into the United States who in turn murdered engineers and scientists working on sensitive U.S. defense projects.
Special Operations
There have been other terrorist attacks inside Iran bearing the handprint of support from the United States. Author Sean Naylor, Relentless Strike, which details the history of operations carried out by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) over the past 30 years, sheds light on this uncomfortable truth:
The late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“JSOC personnel also worked with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian exile group that had based itself in Iraq after falling afoul of the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran. The State Department had placed the MEK on its list of designated terrorist organizations, but that didn’t stop JSOC from taking an attitude of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” toward the group. “They were a group of folks that could transit the border, and they were willing to help us out on what we wanted to do with Iran,” said a special operations officer.”
The MEK were classified as a terrorist group, until the United States decided that as long as the MEK would help kill Iranians rather than Americans, that they were no longer terrorists. The MEK’s history of terrorism is quite clear. Among more than a dozen examples over the last four decades these four are illustrative:
  • During the 1970s, the MEK killed U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
  • In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier’s office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Iran’s President, Premier, and Chief Justice.
  • In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas.
  • In April 1999, the MEK targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff.
Despite this history, a bipartisan parade of prominent U.S. political and military leaders has lobbied on behalf of MEK and has been well compensated in return.
Benighted Policy So Far
In the ultimate ironic turn, the U.S.-led 2003 war in Iraq played a critical role in Iran’s resurgence as a regional power. Saddam Hussein was replaced by Shia muslims who had received sanctuary in Iran for many years and Baathist institutions, including the Army, were taken over by Iraqis sympathetic to Tehran.
Iran has come out ahead in Iraq and, with the 2015 nuclear agreement in place, Iran’s commercial and other ties have improved with key NATO allies and the other major world players—Russia and China in particular.
Official pronouncements on critical national security matters need to be based on facts. Hyperbole in describing Iran’s terrorist activities can be counterproductive. For this reason, we call attention to Ambassador Nikki Haley’s recent statement that it is hard to find a “terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” The truth is quite different. The majority of terrorist groups in the region are neither creatures nor puppets of Iran. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra are three of the more prominent that come to mind.
You have presented yourself as someone willing to speak hard truths in the face of establishment pressure and not to accept the status quo. You spoke out during the campaign against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as a historic mistake of epic proportions. You also correctly captured the mood of many Americans fatigued from constant war in far away lands. Yet the torrent of warnings from Washington about the dangers supposedly posed by Iran and the need to confront them are being widely perceived as steps toward reversing your pledge not to get embroiled in new wars.
We encourage you to reflect on the warning we raised with President George W. Bush almost 15 years ago, at a similar historic juncture:
“after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)
________________________
APPENDIX
LIST OF IRANIAN SCIENTISTS ASSASSINATED IN IRAN
  • January 12, 2010: Masoud Alimohammadi, Iranian Physicist:
  • Killed by a car bomb.  The perpetrator reportedly confessed to having been recruited by Israeli intelligence to carry out the assassination.
  • November 29, 2010: Majid Shahriari, Iranian nuclear scientist:
  • Killed by a car bomb.  According to German media, Israel was the sponsor.
  • November 29, 2010: Assassination attempt on Fereydoon Abbasi Iranian nuclear scientist:
  • Wounded by a car bomb.
  • July 23, 2011: Darioush Rezaeinejad, Iranian electrical engineer, unclear scientist
  • Killed by unknown gunmen on motorcycle.  Specialist on high-voltage switches — a key component of nuclear warheads.  Assassinated by Israeli intelligence, according to the German press.
  • January 11, 2012: Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, Iranian nuclear scientist
  • Killed at Natanz uranium enrichment facility by a magnetic bomb of the same kind used in earlier assassinations of Iranian scientists.
________________________
Signed:
Richard Beske, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (Ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Torin Nelson, former Intelligence Officer/Interrogator (GG-12) HQ, Department of the Army
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Greg Thielmann — Former director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office of the State Department’s intelligence bureau (INR) and former senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee
Kirk Wiebe — former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)
Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (Retired)/DIA, (Retired)
Robert Wing — former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (who resigned in opposition to the war on Iraq)